Not being a particularly crafty or artsy person, most works of art seem like the stuff of genius and magic to me–and the humans whose hands call this artistry into being, magicians of a most brilliant caliber. Their talents and techniques, methods and processes appear as arcane practices; creative rites of which I will never, and perhaps should never glean an understanding.
I have always found the fiber arts a little more accessible, though. Perhaps it is because I am a knitter and have an infinitesimal insight into the creation of each small stitch and how they grow upon one another, how a pattern begins to emerge from a jumble of chaos, how a series of charts on paper eventually transmutes into a silken or woolen, tangible item: a simple pair of mitts to warm ones hands, or perhaps an intricate lace shawl, which over many years becomes a beloved heirloom. Cunning manipulations involving yarn and thread and string, and a pointy stick or two–this art of stitchcraft, though no less magical to me…at least I can unravel a bit of its mystery.
One such dark conjurer of thread and needle-based wizardry is Melbourne-based embroidery artist Adipocere.
Austere, and with a minimum of fuss or florid details, Adipocere’s hand-embroidered imagery on natural linen (and, on occasion, human skin) often features the stark outline of the female form flanked by familiars of the feline, arachnid, lepidopteric and chiropteric variety.
At times this companionship evokes an untroubled, companionable silence, as, for example, woman and puss sit side by side a top the placid plateau of an exhumed human skull. Other pieces portray a more unsettling relationship as a feminine figure in languid repose offers her up her skin for the scarlet scratches of a clowder of black cats. The savage and the serene occupy disquieting space together in these scenes of tender violence.
Some might be inclined apply the terms “morbid” or “macabre” to Adipocere’s works, and while the artist has previously interviewed that his inclinations do sway toward sentiments of that nature, in looking at his own embroidery, he does not see any real darkness.
Perhaps, then, it is not a fascination with the disturbing or unpleasant that Adipocere is necessarily attempting to depict with his stitchery, but rather, a sort of comical-surrealism, stemming from his interests in “counter culture and decay of society”. His more recent work, he notes, focuses more generally on trivializing human identity through rather existentially-nihilistic notions.
“I think most of my fiction tends to root from a certain apathy in that sense.”
We at Haute Macabre are lovers of cats (ailurophiles, if you’re feeling fancy; “crazy cat people” if we’re telling it like it is) and so of course it was imperative to inquire as to the nature of the shadowy cats that grace so many of Adipocere’s canvases. Are they familiars and friends that live in the artist’s home, or perchance shadowy spirit guides? Indulging our curiosity, Adipocere admits that these beloved creatures appear for many reasons and that cats are “terribly important” to his personal well-being (hear hear!) but that being said, he sadly does not live with any, and that maybe he is “subconsciously filling that void.”
And though we have noted the prevalence of feminine figures in his embroidery, we learned that they are “solely indicative of the human component in a sentiment, mostly as a type of anchor point to then play with scale. Any human figure appearing [in his work] is usually portrayed to be much more insignificant than in our society.” With regard to the nude aspect of these figures, Adipocere confides that he is hesitant to embroider clothing, as it’s the largest factor that grounds fictitious narrative to a particular time period or region. As much as much as he might like to embroider Victorian-era dresses or Dark Ages garb, it remains a prevalent self-imposed constraint.
Always eager to stitch misrepresented or under-represented critters in his designs, Adipocere has recently contributed a duo of works–“Silent Acquiescence” and “Coven of Calyptra”–to The Dark Forest gallery exhibit at Light Grey Art Lab. Featuring new work exploring hidden mysteries in nature, the show was assembled from a group of artists who draw heavily from natural inspiration, and who use techniques and insight gained from expertise in areas such as environmental studies, textile design, and taxidermy to enhance their creative practice.
For these two contributions he chose “…to focus on fauna native within such a place that the theme alluded to, supplemented by notions of self-sacrifice for the purpose of achieving a personal, desired outcome, ” and confessed that believe it or not, the vampirical link that the two works share was purely coincidental.